Layer 7 Security: Understanding and Protecting Your Data


Both CISA and CISM are provided by Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) and they are considered great certifications for establishing a career in the IT industry. When trying to find the most suitable certificate, people often confuse these two as one and the same, which is a big mistake. So, what are the differences between CISA and CISM? 

CISA is suitable for auditors who assess IS vulnerabilities, report on compliance, and have the institute control in an organization. On the other hand, CISM is a certification designed for information security managers and risk managers who manage and design the information security of a company.

In this article, I will give you a clear description of both CISA and CISM, so you would be able to see the difference between the two. I will talk about their benefits and what you can expect from them, so it would be easier for you to make the choice of certification. If you were one of those people who thought that these two were the same, this brief overview will definitely change your mind.

CISA Certification

If you are looking for careers in audit, then CISA would be the perfect choice for you. CISA stands for Certified Information Systems Auditor, and it is a certification that provides skills in planning, studying, and evaluating controls in a company or an organization. This certification provides the needed guidelines for an auditor career and every necessary skill referred to the IS/IT functions. 

To be a skillful IT auditor, you must follow several steps which will lead you to complete fulfillment of your responsibility as one: 

  1. Planning.
  2. Monitoring and studying controls, and assessment of the same.
  3. Testing and re-assessing the controls. 
  4. Reporting results and findings. 
  5. Monitoring the control process to ensure that everything works well. 

The auditor must always follow the company’s policy, plan, and procedure, and act according to them. The CISA certification provides skills that will help you manage all of the steps in line with the company’s rules, so you would be able to do the auditing in a perfect way. 

CISA covers five domains that provide the knowledge and the concepts needed for a professional auditor. The candidates must familiarize themselves thoroughly in these domains before taking the exam. 

  1. Domain 1: The Process of Auditing Information Systems.
  2. Domain 2: Governance and Management of IT.
  3. Domain 3: Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation.
  4. Domain 4: Information Systems Operations, Maintenance, and Service Management.
  5. Domain 5: Protection and Information Assets.

Exam Requirements

The CISA certification is not suitable for those without any experience, therefore it is not fit for beginners. The exam requires at least five years of experience in auditing, controlling, and securing information systems. 

Unlike some other certifications, CISA requires enrolling and attending courses, online classes, or usage of software manuals, and other study guides. Since this certificate belongs to a more advanced level, it is more difficult to prepare for the exam alone. People find studying with instructors and other professionals more convenient, than spending a lot of time on unguided learning by oneself. 

Who Should Obtain CISA? 

CISA is mostly suitable for IS auditors since their job includes a lot of responsibilities, such as working in a team and creating a secure environment for protecting the company from security threats or possible attacks. All of the domains covered in the CISA exam refer to gaining skills for these responsibilities. 

However, CISA can be also suitable for IS/IT consultants and managers, Security professionals, and Non-IT auditors. 

CISM Certification

The Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is suitable for those who want to obtain or improve their managerial skills in IT security. It is designed for candidates who are focused on managing information security, rather than getting into the inner aspect of IT security.  

CISM exam covers domains that will qualify the candidate for the position of manager in a company who will be concerned with the management of information security and will be responsible for establishing policies to secure the data in a certain organization. The following domains need to be covered before taking the CISM exam: 

  1. Domain 1: Information Security Governance.
  2. Domain 2: Information Risk Management.
  3. Domain 3: Information Security Program Development and Management.
  4. Domain 4: Information Security Incident Management. 

Once you obtain all of the skills in these domains, you will be able to land a position of a senior manager who will be responsible for validating and implementing the needed assets to ensure security in an enterprise. The CISM certification gives you the qualifications to act as the person who manages security and protection while creating programs that will enable them. 

Exam Requirements 

Since CISM is an advanced level of certification, you cannot take the exam without prior experience of at least five years in the field of information security. CISM offers courses and classes with the appropriate methods for studying for the exam. 

Since this is not a ‘light’ examination, proper guidelines would be needed for passing the exam. Therefore, if you are planning on taking the CISM exam, you should consider these options for your preparation process. 

Who Should Obtain CISM? 

As I previously mentioned, CISM is suitable for those who are aiming to get a job in the IT security management field. So, to be able to pass the CISM exam you will be required to possess a specific set of skills. 

For instance, you need to be able to establish policies that will provide security of information. Furthermore, you will need skills to optimize resources that will offer protection, and the ability to make critical decisions related to the security of an organization. You will also need to calculate the risk and the efficiency of certain decisions. 

Once you obtain these skills, you should go for the CISM certificate, meaning you will be eligible to apply for jobs that require full management of the security of information. 

To conclude, CISA and CISM have more differences than similarities. These two certifications are far from the same, therefore if you are planning to obtain one of them, you should think about your end goals. The wanted result you want to achieve at the end will tell you which of these two you actually need. 

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